Trump meets resistance in attempts woo Libertarians during speech at D.C. nominating convention

Former President Donald Trump did his best on Saturday to convince a raucous crowd of Libertarian voters to support him, but his pitch mostly fell flat. 

Mr. Trump became the first former or current president to attend the Libertarian Party National Convention in its history, and used his stage time in a cramped ballroom at the Washington Hilton to urge attendees and delegates to nominate him, or at least vote for him, in his quest to retake the White House from President Biden. 

He told the crowd that “we should not be fighting each other,” arguing that he was the best bet to beat Mr. Biden in November. He tried to sweeten the deal by promising to install a Libertarian in his cabinet and filling senior positions in the White House with Libertarians. 

“Now I think you should nominate me or at least vote for me and we should win together,” Mr. Trump said.

The crowd was not as receptive to his pleas for support as his typical rally crowd. Mr. Trump’s entrance, which was about a half-hour behind schedule, was met with boos that continued throughout most of his speech.

The next day, Sen. Tim Scott applauded Mr. Trump for “going to places where Republicans have not gone before.”

“He doesn’t just want to win the votes of the American people. He’s trying to win the hearts of the American people, unite our country and start steering us towards the strongest, most powerful, prosperous future we can have,” Mr. Scott, one of Mr. Trump’s possible running mates, said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

“If we’re going to win this election cycle, we must go where we’re not invited,” he said. “And to see the former president take that seriously is, in my opinion, a strong sign and one of the reasons why … we are seeing the poll numbers moving in his direction.”

In his speech to the Libertarian Convention, Mr. Trump did not, as expected, criticize Robert F. Kennedy Jr. He never mentioned the independent presidential candidate who threatens to siphon off votes from both Mr. Trump and President Biden.

Mr. Trump previously called a vote for Mr. Kennedy, who attacked Mr. Trump for his pandemic policies on Friday at the convention, a “wasted protest vote,” and said that he would rather have Mr. Biden as president. 

The former president could not resist firing back at the hostile crowd, however, poking fun at the Libertarian Party’s consistently low voter turnout numbers during presidential election years and questioning whether they wanted to win the White House. 

“You can keep going the way you have for the last long decades and get your 3%, then meet again get another 3%,” Mr. Trump said. “No, you want to make yourself winners. It’s time to be winners. You have a lot of common sense, it’s time to be winners.”

Mr. Trump’s rocky interaction with the crowd was foreshadowed by his surrogates speaking ahead of him who tried to win attendees over to support the former president. Vivek Ramaswamy, who previously ran against Mr. Trump for the GOP presidential nomination, was met with cheers of “f—- Trump” on Friday. 

Sen. Mike Lee, who spoke just before the former president, was met with cheers when he touched on hallmarks of libertarianism, like ending the Federal Reserve, but when Mr. Trump’s name was mentioned, the room echoed with boos. 

“Go on ahead and get your boos out,” Mr. Lee said. “But you know what, you’ve got an excellent opportunity to hear from the man yourself.”

• Mallory Wilson contributed to this report.

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